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Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York

by John H. Selkreg, 1894; D. Mason & Co., Publisher

History of Cornell
Chapter XI


At the opening of the university provision was made for instruction in the classics by the election of Professor Albert S. WHEELER as professor of both Latin and Greek. Professor WHEELER was a graduate of Hobart College, in which he had been tutor from 1853 to 1855, and assistant professor of Greek and Latin in 1855 and 1856. During the years 1857 to 1859 he held the professorship of rhetoric and elocution. From 1860 to 1868, the date of his call to Cornell University, he was professor of the Greek language and literature. All students of those early days will recall this admirable teacher. Having received a legal training for practice at the bar, he manifested the results of this training in all that he did. An excellent and accurate scholar, with a judicial mind, he manifested in his training of students similar qualities. They were expected to be thorough, systematic, logical, to take nothing for granted, to search for the foundations of all that was taught. For three years he filled the double chair of Latin and Greek. All students who graduated under him felt the impress of his personality as much as of his learning. While the philological side of classical study was not disregarded, he appreciated classical study from its humane side for the value of its literature. Especially in the award of prizes Professor WHEELER pursued a characteristic method. He did not believe that prizes should be awarded simply for excellence in the ordinary curriculum of the class room, but that in addition to class room work, certain work should be set which would test the independence of the student by private study. Thus at an examination in Horace, the prize paper would embrace the entire writings of the poet, and the student would be expected to discuss thoroughly from independent research whatever questions might arise in connection with the life and times of the poet, his verse and his theories of poetry. On one occasion of this kind one competitor committed to memory three books of the "Odes of Horace" and the "Ars Poetica" and a second, student was only slightly behind the first. Professor Goldwin SMITH, with whom the poet had been a favorite study and who had translated a considerable portion of his verse which has since been published, prepared the paper set for examination, and such as would have been given in a similar case in an English university, and awarded the prizes. Professor WHEELER resigned after three years' service and accepted a position in the Sheffield Scientific School, where the same distinguished ability as a scholar has won for him deserved recognition. Upon the resignation of Professor WHEELER the department was divided as had been originally contemplated whenever the resources of the university should permit, and Tracy PECK, a teacher in the High School of Cincinnati and former tutor in Yale, was elected to the professorship of the Latin language and literature, and Mr. Isaac FLAGG, an assistant professor in Harvard, was chosen professor of the Greek language and literature. Professor PECK, who contributed to enlarge the field of Latin study, remained connected with the department until 1880. He was an advocate of the Roman method of pronunciation, which he here introduced, and teaching Latin conversation was a favorite branch of instruction with him. Professor FLAGG was a teacher of fine literary taste, with an intimate knowledge of Greek literature, who, in his published writings, has devoted especial attention to the dramatists. He remained associated with the university until 1888, when he resigned and accepted a position in the University of California. Professor PECK resigned in order to become the successor of his former teacher, Professor THATCHER, in Yale University. Upon the resignation of Professor PECK, William Gardiner HALE, now of the University of Chicago, was chosen his successor. Professor HALE had won deserved recognition as instructor in Latin in Harvard University, a reputation which has constantly increased. Under his leadership and under the fostering care of the trustees of the university, whose means at that time permitted a larger development, instruction, Roman life and art became prominent. Professor HALE' s personal studies were, in addition to Roman life and art, directed to the scientific discussion of questions of Latin grammar, especially of those associated with the Moods. The department increased rapidly in numbers during the period of Professor HALE' s connection with the university. Professor HALE' s large interest in all questions that concerned university administration made his participation in the deliberations of the faculty of great value. Upon the resignation of Professor HALE, Professor Charles E. BENNETT of Brown University, who had held professorships in both the University of Nebraska and the University of Wisconsin, was elected his successor. Dr. Benjamin Ide WHEELER, a graduate of Brown University and an instructor in Harvard University, was elected acting professor of classical philology and instructor in Latin and Greek, and entered upon his duties beginning with the year 1886. Professor WHEELER's work upon receiving his degree at the University of Heidelberg had won immediate recognition as a most valuable contributor to the study of the Indo-European languages. He had devoted especial attention to the science of language as well as to the comparative grammar of the Indo-European languages. With his accession, a department was filled, the needs of which had been long recognized by all professors in the department of languages. Systematic courses of lectures upon the science of language, together with instruction in Sanskrit and phonetics, with increased work in the department of Greek, to which Professor BRISTOL was elected from Hamilton College, gave an enlarged impulse to classical study in the university. At this time seminary instruction was introduced in all departments, facilities having been afforded by the purchase of special libraries for consultation by advanced students, and by the fitting up of seminary rooms.

The extension and reorganization of the work in Greek since the connection of Professor B. I. WHEELER with that department include (1) a rearrangement of the courses of instruction, (2) the introduction of the study of historical grammar and the science of language, (3) the introduction of systematic instruction in ancient life and institutions, (4) the organization of seminary instruction and the formation of a seminary library, (5) the collection of illustrative materials including a museum of casts.

(1.) The courses of instruction were remodeled with a view to sharply differentiate between the required work of the freshman and sophomore years, and the elective work of those who looked forward to specialization in the subject. To the work of the freshman year was assigned especially training in the accuracies of the language upon the basis of Lysias, Plato, and the Odyssey of Homer. The work of sophomore year was devoted almost exclusively to literary training, based upon the reading of Demosthenes, Sophocles and Aristophanes. Supplementary reading outside the regular requirements of the class exercises was assigned and required. In the belief that these earlier years demand the most experienced instruction, the work of the sophomore class was conducted by Professor WHEELER himself, and that of the freshman class supervised, and, for at least half the class, conducted by Professor BRISTOL.

The variety and scope of the advanced work was greatly enlarged. Regular advanced courses have been provided in (a) the tragedians, (b) Aristophanes, (c) the orators and historians, (d) the lyric and epic poets, (e) Plato, (f) Aristotle, (g) New Testament Greek, (h) modern Greek, (i) Greek composition, (j) history of Greek literature, (k) Greek antiquities, private and legal, (l) Greek historical grammar. Beside these the seminary has offered opportunities of studying the (Greek inscription or, on alternate years, some selected author.

(2.) In historical grammar, courses have been given in general philology Indo-European comparative grammar, elementary Sanskrit, advanced Sanskrit including reading of the Vedas, Gothic grammar, and old Bulgarian grammar. The purpose has been to provide the teacher of language with a fundamental equipment for understanding the phenomena of speech, and at the same time to prepare the way for specialization for those who should choose it.

(3.) The course in Greek life and institutions has been given in alternate years since Professor WHEELER came to Cornell in 1886, and was the first course of the kind given in the university. Illustration by means of the lantern and the various illustrative objects which have been collected has proved highly serviceable in making ancient life real and the literature living.

(4.) Since 1887 a seminary library of great value has been in use. The nucleus of it was procured through the bounty of Mr. H. W. SAGE, who gave $1,000 for this purpose. It was the first seminary library founded at Cornell. The seminary which is doing an important work training teachers and specialists has at present seventeen members.

(5.) The outfit of the Greek lecture rooms was purchased from university funds in 1887 and 1888; and the Museum of Arts, purchased and equipped at a cost of over fifteen thousand dollars, was opened to the public on the eightieth birthday of its donor, Mr. SAGE (January 31, 1894.) This museum is the completest of its kind connected directly with any educational institution in the country. In connection with the formation of this museum and the opportunities of instruction afforded by it, the chair of archaeology and art was erected in 1891. Professor Alfred EMERSON was called to fill it. The selection of the casts and their successful installation was largely his work. He has given lectures in archaeology, the history of sculpture and the history of painting, and has conducted a seminary for the training of specialists in archaeology.

The instruction in Greek in its various branches is now (1894) shared among four professors and an instructor; Professors WHEELER, BRISTOL, EMERSON, HAMMOND and Dr. LAIRD. Professor HAMMOND is connected with the Sage School of Philosophy, but conducts all the work of the Greek department in the reading and interpretation of Plato and Aristotle. Dr. LAIRD has been instructor in Greek since 1892, having been called from a similar position at the Leland Stanford University.


The work of the Department of Latin may be grouped under the following heads:

(1). Reading Courses. Besides the customary required work of the sophomore year (Cicero, Livy, Horace, Terence, Tacitus) elective courses are offered in alternate years in the literature of the Republic (Plautus, Terence, Lucretius, Catullus), and of the Empire (Pliny's Letters, Juvenal, Tacitus's Annals). A special elective for sophomores (in addition to the required Latin of that year ), is offered in Cicero's Letters and the de Oratore; while for freshmen an elective course in sight reading is provided (Nepos, Ovid and Gelleus).

(2). To afford a more thorough and sympathetic knowledge of Roman life than the courses in literature alone would give, a systematic course of lectures on private antiquities is given in alternate years. These lectures are abundantly illustrated, mainly by lantern views and photographs prepared from the remains of ancient Roman civilization preserved in Pompeii, Herculaneum, Rome and elsewhere.

(3). To students whose interest extends to the scientific aspect of the language (and especially to those who are preparing to be teachers) ample provision is made by the Teachers' Training Course and by the Latin Seminary. The Teachers' Training Course embraces a study of the evidences of the pronunciation of Latin, hidden quantity, peculiarities of orthography, original force and historical development of the cases; the subjunctive mood, with special reference to its primitive meaning and the history of its development in subordinate clauses. The Latin Seminary is designed primarily for graduate students and aims to familiarize its members with the habit and methods of independent study and investigation. Two subjects of study are pursued in alternate years, viz: The Italic dialects (Latin, Oscan, Umbrian) and Latin Syntax.

Further provision for advanced students is made in a special course in Latin writing.

(4). In order to give a general view of the entire field of Latin study, a course of lectures is given in alternate years on the history of Latin studies, the Latin language, Latin literature, Roman history, philosophy, law, religion, architecture, art, epigraphy, palaeography, lexicography, military and naval antiquities, etc. In this course a brief résumé is given under each topic of the present state of our knowledge in that department, the methods of investigation, along with the statement of the more important problems still awaiting solution.

(5) Besides the above courses offered by the Latin department, the related departments of comparative philology, ancient history and classical archaeology provide instruction in the study of historical Latin grammar, Roman art, architecture and topography, and in Latin palaeography.


No mention was made of the study of Sanskrit or comparative philology in the original plan of organization. Even a prospective place in the course of studies for which provision was made in the university curriculum does not appear.

In the early years Dr. WILSON had occasionally, for a limited time, a student in Hebrew, who purposed to enter the ministry. Dr. ROEHRIG enlarged his field of instruction in French by giving lectures in Chinese and Japanese.

These were frequently attended by large classes who enjoyed the skill and ease with which these difficult subjects were taught by the professor whose marvelous memory enabled him to dispense with text books. Seldom has an equal acquisition been obtained with so little effort. Students who knew no Latin or Greek, and to whom French and German proved insurmountable, acquired with the greatest ease a certain knowledge of the bewildering characters on a tea chest, and even read simple tales and fables from the blackboard. These exercises seem to have been a recreation to the learned professor, and to have occupied at first only one hour a week.

The first mention of Oriental instruction occurs in the Register for 1869, where instruction in Hebrew by Professor WILSON, and in Sanskrit by Professor J. M. HART was announced. In the following year instruction in Chinese by Professor ROEHRIG, and in Persian by Professor FISKE, and in the science of language, for classical students, by Professor A. S. WHEELER. In the Register of 1874-5, under the title "Living Asiatic and Oriental Languages", courses in Persian, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit, Hebrew and other Semitic languages were mentioned. The conservative statement appears: " For a thorough appreciation of any literature a knowledge of the language in which it is written is indispensable." It was hoped that interest in these studies would warrant the establishment of classes in Arabic, Syriac and other languages, cognate with Hebrew, and that Semitic philology in its widest sense might find a home in the university. The enthusiastic professor announced in the Register for 1877-8, an elementary course of two years in Chinese, and lectures on Mantchoos, Turkish, the Tartar languages and Turanian philology. Some instruction in Sanskrit was given, and we find Chaldee and Syriac added to Hebrew under the charge of Professor WILSON. The Register for the following year contained systematic courses in Sanskrit, Arabic grammar, modern Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Malayan.

The existence of this department was due to the eminence of Professor ROEHRIG who early won distinction in these studies and who found pleasure in continuing them. The instruction was not co-ordinated with the courses in classics and did not contribute to genuine philological study. Few students had the requisite preparation for their successful pursuit, and, upon the resignation of the professor, the department came to an end.

In March, 1874, Mr. Joseph SELIGMANN of New York offered to endow a professorship of Hebrew and Oriental literature and history in the university, for three years, on condition that he should nominate the incumbent. The offer was accepted, the appointment being rather in nature of a lectureship, the duties of which required residence at the university, while a course of ten, twelve or twenty lectures were given. It was expected that this appointment would fill an important deficiency in the university curriculum, as scientific instruction in Hebrew was desired. Dr. Felix ADLER, who was nominated to this chair, was a graduate of Columbia College and of the University of Heidelberg, a man of fresh scholarship, and of pronounced opinions on the history of religion, philosophy and ethics. Dr. ADLER possessed great ability as a lecturer. He was an independent thinker and possessed the power of clear and eloquent statement, and attracted for a time many hearers. The expectation of systematic instruction in the Semitic languages was not realized, as Dr. ADLER' s lectures were devoted rather to the origin and history of the various religions of the East to modern philosophy in its relation to religion and to Hebrew religion and literature from a critical standpoint. Dr. ADLER' s lectures were given in the years 1874-76.


Among the professors whose names appear in the first catalogue of the university is that of Homer B. SPRAGUE as Professor of Rhetoric, Oratory and Vocal Culture. There is no mention of this title of English literature, although instruction in it was assumed by the professor. Professor SPRAGUE had had a brilliant career in Yale, where he had won many of the highest honors of the college. Later, with characteristic ardor, he entered the army and attained the rank of colonel. Upon his return from the war he abandoned the career at the bar, for which he studied upon leaving college, and became principal of the Oread Institute in Worcester, Mass. Colonel SPRAGUE was a man of brilliant gifts, and an attractive, popular lecturer. The study of English literature as arranged by him was as follows: "The leading authors will be studied in their historical order during the first year. In the second year, the authors will be studied by groups, in periods and departments. The origin, structure, growth, and peculiarities of the languages will be explained and illustrated. In the third year there, will be a critical examination and study of masterpieces of the great authors." In the fourth year there were to be lectures by the professor on special topics. In rhetoric there were to be exercises in writing, the analysis of sentences, the principles of composition, original essays, the scientific study of rhetoric based upon the analysis of the masterpieces of the best authors. This was to be accompanied by specimen orations or essays. In oratory the elements of expression by voice and gesture were to be taught, and much time devoted to vocal culture. Declamations were required. Speeches were studied and analyzed to ascertain the ideas, sentiments and emotions, and apply the principles of expression, and finally the delivery of extemporaneous orations and lectures upon oratory and orators. The labor accompanying any adequate fulfillment of such a course, in a department, where every student required individual attention, was enormous. This was especially true when the requirements for admission were so unsatisfactory as in those early days. No provision was made for instruction in Early English or in English philology. Professor SPRAGUE resigned at the end of two years, to accept the presidency of the Adelphi Academy, and Professor Hiram CORSON was elected on June 30, 1870, as professor of rhetoric. Professor CORSON had been for many years a devoted student of English literature. His contributions to the study of Anglo-Saxon, and individual texts in early English which he had edited, had already won for him deserved recognition both in this country and abroad. With his coming, the systematic study of Anglo-Saxon was introduced. In 1871 the department was still further enlarged by the appointment of Charles Chauncey SHACKFORD, whose work lay more in the field of rhetoric and general literature. Professor CORSON was thus enabled to devote more immediate attention to English literature, while the work in rhetoric, and lectures in general literature, including the philosophy of literature, with a discussion of the various forms of the literary product in various nations, fell to Professor SHACKFORD. Of Professor CORSON we may say, there has been a unity in the aim of his department and of the work embraced under it from the beginning to the present time. He values the study of literature for the spiritual activity which it may be made to induce, and for the resulting refining influences. Through his books upon Shakspere (sic) and Browning he is recognized as one of the greatest interpreters of literature which our country has produced. To him is due in a large degree the intelligent study of Browning in various centers, most of which have received his special aid. His elective classes, and special extra readings which he has given are always numerously attended. His work has received high recognition abroad from the most eminent scholars, from Tennyson himself, Browning and Dowden and Furnival. He has been invited to present papers before the Chaucer, the New Shakspere (sic) and the Browning Societies.

Professor CORSON' s method of instruction in literature is as follows:

"Lectures are given on English literature, poetical and prose, from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century inclusive, in eight groups, of which Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Wordsworth, Browning and Tennyson are made the central figures. The lectures are given daily, except Saturday, and to the same class, so that there are about two hundred lectures given during the academic year. A large portion of the class are special students who have come to devote most of their time to English literature. They, accordingly, do a great deal of reading in connection with the lectures. It is made a special object of the lectures to bring the students into direct relationship with the authors treated, and hence much reading is introduced. The literature is presented mainly in its essential character, rather than in its historical, though the latter receives attention, but not such as to set the minds of students in that direction. It is considered of prime importance that they should first attain to a sympathetic appreciation of what is essential and intrinsic, before the adventitious features of literature-features due to time and place-be considered. What is regarded as of great, of chief importance, indeed, in literary study, in some of our institutions of learning, namely, the relations of works of genius to their several times and places (miscalled the philosophy of literature), is of the least importance, so far as culture in its truest sense is concerned. Literature is thus made chiefly an intellectual and philosophical study; its true function, namely, to quicken the spiritual faculties, is quite shut off. An exclusively intellectual attitude is taken toward what is a production of the whole man, as a thinking, emotional, imaginative, moral and religious being,- a production which can be adequately responded to only by one in whom these several attributes are, in some degree, active; and literary education should especially aim after their activity; should aim to bring the student into sympathetic relationship with the permanent and the eternal-with that which is independent of time and place.

There is danger, too, in presenting literature to young people in its historical relations, and in "philosophizing" about it, of turning out cheap and premature philosophers. A work of genius renders the best service when it is assimilated in its absolute character. All great works of genius are intimately related to the several times and places in which they were produced; and it is important to know these relations, in the proper time-when the "years that bring the philosophic mind" have been reached, not before. But it is far more important to know the relations of these works to the universal, to the absolute, to that which is alive forevermore, by virtue of which alone they continue to live. Mrs. Browning, in her "Aurora Leigh", speaks of great poets as "the only truth tellers now left to God-the only speakers of essential truth, opposed to relative, comparative, and temporal truths; the only holders by His sun-skirts, through conventional grey glooms."

The mode in which genius manifests itself, at certain times, in certain places, and under certain circumstances, may be explained to some extent; but the genius itself cannot be explained. Environments stimulate or suppress, they do not and cannot make genius. The causes which bring it nearer to the essential world than men in general are brought, we cannot know. The explanation which can be given of its mode of manifestation should be called the physiology, not the philosophy, of literature.

And how is the best response to the essential life of a poem to be by the teacher from the pupil? I answer, by the fullest interpretative vocal rendering of it. On the part of the teacher, two things are indispensable, first, that he sympathetically assimilate what constitutes the real life of the poem; second, that he have that vocal cultivation demanded for an effective rendering of what he has assimilated. Lecturing about poetry does not, of itself, avail any more for poetical cultivation than lecturing about music avails, of itself, for musical cultivation. Both maybe valuable, in the way of giving shape to, or organizing, what has previously been felt to some extent; but they cannot take the place of inward experience. Vocal interpretation, too, is the most effective mode of cultivating in students a susceptibilities to form-that unification of matter and manner upon which so much of the vitality and effectiveness of expressed spiritualized thought depend.

There is no true estimate, among the leaders in the educational world, of what vocal culture, worthy of the name, costs; and the kind of encouragement which it receives from them is in keeping with their estimate. A system of vocal training should be instituted in the lower schools which would give pupils complete command of the muscles of articulation, extend the compass of the voice, and render it smooth, powerful and melodious. A power of varied intonation should be especially cultivated, as it is through intonation that the reader's sympathies are conducted, and the hearer's sympathies are secured.

The reading voice demands as much, and as systematic and scientific cultivation, for the interpretation of the masterpieces of poetical and dramatic literature, as the singing voice demands for the rendering of the masterpieces of music. But what a ridiculous contrast is presented by the methods usually employed for the training of the reading voice, and those employed, as in conservatories of music, for the training of the singing voice!

Readings are given every Saturday morning throughout the academic year, from English and American prose writers. These are open to all students and to any visitors who may wish to avail themselves of them. The selections read are chiefly such as bear upon life and character, literature and art. The present year they have been, thus far, from essays of George Eliot, Professor Dowden, Mr. Ruskin, Mr. Leslie Stephen, Matthew Arnold, Emerson, Lowell, Frances Power Cobbe and some other essayists. The regular members of the class afterwards read for themselves the compositions entire from which the selections are made, and many are inspired to read further from the same authors.

There are four English literature seminaries, devoted, severally, to nineteenth century prose not including novels, seventeenth and eighteenth century prose not including novels, novelists of the nineteenth century, and novelists of the eighteenth century. The seminaries are open to graduates, special students and to undergraduates who have maintained a high rank in the lecture courses. A work is assigned to each member of a seminary, of which he or she makes a careful study, and embodies the result in a paper which is read in the seminary and afterward discussed by the members, each member having been required to read in advance the work in hand. The papers bear chiefly, almost exclusively, on what is understood by their authors to constitute the life, the informing spirit, the moral proportion, the motives, of the works treated. The merely technical is only incidentally, if at all, treated. The present year, essays have been read on all the novels of George Eliot, and her poem, " The Spanish Gypsy," the seminary consisting of twenty-seven members. All the essays have been of high merit, showing much insight into George Eliot's "interpretation of life."

It should be added that twelve plays of Shakespeare are read by me during the present academic year, so cut down as to occupy two hours each in the reading. It is purposed so to read, in a separate course, next year, the thirty-seven plays, two hours a week to be devoted to each play. I would also add that by the end of the present year I shall have read entire, with requisite comment, to an outside class composed of graduate and special students, Browning's "The Ring and the Book". The educating value of this great poem is of the highest character, embodying, as it does, the poet's ideal of a sanctified intellect."

In 1890, the University Senate recommended a division of the department of English literature and rhetoric. It was proposed to establish two professorships, to one of which the chair of English literature should be assigned and to the other that of English philology and rhetoric. The department of elocution and oratory was attached to the latter chair.

After the resignation of Professor SHACKFORD in 1886, the duties of both departments again devolved upon Professor CORSON, until the election of Dr. James Morgan HART as professor of rhetoric and English philology in 1890. Professor James Morgan HART was the son of Dr. John S. HART, the well-known educator, formerly a professor in Princeton College. Professor HART graduated at Princeton and afterward received his degree of Doctor of Laws at the University of Göttingen. During his first residence abroad, between 1860-65, he resided in Geneva, Göttingen and Berlin. Upon his return to this country he entered upon the practice of law, but was soon called to Cornell University as assistant professor of French and German. He remained here until 1873. From 1874-8, he was engaged in literary work in New York and in editing a series of German classics. During this time he published his very interesting work upon German universities. After residing for a second time abroad in which he devoted himself especially to the study of English philology, he was called to the University of Cincinnati where he filled the chair of English and German from 1876-90, from which he was summoned again to Cornell University, with which he had been associated in the early years of its history. Since the creation of a special chair for English philology, the work has been systematically arranged and received a large development and growth. Professor HART has set himself vigorously to elevate the instruction in rhetoric and especially in elementary English, in which he found the prevailing instruction in the secondary schools of the State very deficient. His services in this direction, both within the university and in the public schools, have effected a revolution in the character of the instruction in this study.

The instruction of the first year in English is practical rather than literary. It consists chiefly of reading and interpreting good nineteenth century prose, De Quincy, Macaulay and Carlyle, and writing copiously upon the subjects embodied in or directly connected with the readings. The aim of the instruction is to widen the student's range of ideas and to enlarge his vocabulary and to quicken and guide his powers of expression The work of the second year is more literary. The readings are in Johnson, Goldsmith, Gibbon and Burke, all writers of the eighteenth century. The essays are longer than in the previous year, and stress is laid upon the outline and general treatment of them; also upon collateral reading. In the advanced elective work, the aim of the junior and senior years is to train teachers of English and persons of evident literary aptitude. Only such persons are admitted to the junior class as have received distinction in the lower classes. The readings in the senior year may be assigned to Bacon, Milton, Dryden and Swift, and the essays become more elaborate and represent studies in the lives, writings and opinions of the authors read. Attention is also paid to the historical treatment of certain features in the formation of prose style and in the special study of the Elizabethan English. Senior rhetoric is professedly a seminary for the training of teachers of English. The instruction is adapted throughout to the needs of teachers. The general theory of composition is reviewed. The books prescribed for entrance examinations in English by the New England Association of Colleges are studied. Select passages are examined which illustrate the principles of invention and style, and model subjects are drawn up for the practical use of high-school classes. The study of English philology is entirely elective. There is one popular course, all the others are professional. The former course is open to all members of the university and is not designed for persons wishing to make a special study of philology. The work consists of lectures upon the development of the language down to the present day, illustrated by the reading of very brief specimens from the successive periods. For the systematic study of English philology a knowledge of the classics is also required and apt acquaintance with modern German. One term is devoted to the study of Gothic, and two terms to reading a very moderate amount of Anglo-Saxon prose and verse and to mastering the grammar; a good deal of comparative Indo-European grammar is introduced. The advanced course consists in reading long texts both prose and verse and in reviewing the more difficult points of grammar and in noting dialectic peculiarities. A course in Middle English, the general modification of the language from the Norman conquest to Chaucer, is arranged, in which especial attention is paid to the Midland dialect. Courses also in English phonetics, in Old Saxon, in Icelandic and in general Germanic philology are given, but not in every year. The students making special study of English philology for the doctor's degree also pursue courses in Sanskrit or in Indo-European philology under Professor WHEELER.


The first professor of languages in this department chosen was one of the two professors first elected in the university. William C. RUSSEL was elected at the fifth meeting of the Board of Trustees held in Albany, February 13, 1867. He was elected to the chair of modern languages and adjunct-professor of history. It is not clear whether it was the original purpose to combine the two chairs originally proposed, viz., that of the South European languages and of the North European languages, which were provided for in the plan of organization in one chair by this designation or not. Professor William C. RUSSEL was a nephew of the famous William Channing whose name he bore. He was a graduate of Columbia College in the class of 1832. After graduation he was admitted to the bar and engaged in the practice of his profession in New York until 1863. At that time there came a sudden and painful interruption in the practice of his profession, occasioned by the death of a beloved son, who had entered the army as an officer in Col. SHAW' s regiment of colored troops and had been killed in battle. In order to recover his body, he went south. Later his philanthropic spirit led him to take service in the Freedman's Bureau, and, for a brief period, he gave instruction in the department of metaphysical, moral and political science in Antioch College. After his election to the chair of modern languages in Cornell University he went abroad to familiarize himself with the present state of modern literature in the department to which he had been elected.

The first assistant professor in the department was James Morgan HART, who was transferred in 1870 to the department of German. Then followed W. M. HOWLAND, retired in 1870; F. L. 0. ROEHRIG, retired in 1884; Alfred STEBBINS, retired in 1882, and T. F. CRANE, assistant from 1870 to 1S73, when he was appointed professor of Spanish and Italian, while retaining his duties as assistant professor of French. In 1881, upon the retirement of Professor RUSSEL, Professor CRANE was placed at the head of the department, the title of which was, in 1882, changed to that of Romance Languages and Literature.

Instructors have, since the retirement of Professors STEBBINS and ROEHRIG, taken the place of the earlier assistant professors. Italian and Spanish were not taught regularly until the return from Europe of Professor CRANE in the fall of 1870. Since that time classes in French, Spanish and Italian have been taught regularly, and in addition to these the earlier dialects of French, including old Provencal and Italian, have been taught to advanced students from time to time. Besides the usual courses in the language and literature of France, Spain and Italy, the philology of the Romance languages in general, and of the several languages in particular, have been taught in the Romance Seminary.

The general library is well supplied with works on the languages and literature of the Romance people, and the Seminary Room contains the most important philological journals and special treatises needed for the most advanced study in this department, as well as palaeographical material for the study of early texts, etc.

As at present organized the department consists of a full professor and four instructors, among whom the following work is divided: Nine sections of freshmen French; six sections of sophomore French; six sections of advanced French; two sections each of Spanish and Italian, and two seminaries, one dealing with philology, the other with advanced literary history.

Much attention is paid to the study of modern French, and instruction in conversation and reading, under the charge of a native Frenchman, is constantly offered.

About 450 students are usually pursuing studies in this department. Although no fellowships have been attached to the department, a number, usually in connection with the German department, have received special training in the department, of these Mr. C. R. WILSON is now professor of modern languages at Iowa State University, and Mr. SCHMIDT-WARTENBERG is an associate professor of German in the University of Chicago. Two other fellows, Mr. RUYTER (died in 1890) and Mr. LAPHAM have filled the position of instructor.

In February, 1868, Mr. Willard FISKE was elected professor of the North European Languages, and we may assume that by this action the chair of modern languages was definitely divided as originally contemplated. Professor FISKE was born in Ellisburg, N. Y., and removed in early boyhood to Syracuse, where he formed a life-long friendship with Andrew D. WHITE, later president of the university. Professor FISKE spent a short time in Hamilton College. Here be conceived a passion for the study of Icelandic, and, though a mere undergraduate, visited Vermont in order to see George P. MARSH, the famous scholar and later diplomatist. Filled with a boyish enthusiasm, young FISKE undertook a journey to the north of Europe, and next appears as a student in the University of Upsala in Sweden. Here he spent two years participating thoroughly in that Norse life which had such a fascination for him, interest in which he has retained until the present day. He visited Germany on his return to America, and soon after received an appointment as assistant-librarian in the Astor Library. Here he remained for several years, but failing of promotion as he anticipated, he resigned and accepted the appointment of secretary of the American Geographical Society. Later he became a journalist, and was for a time one of the editors of the Syracuse journal in his native city. A man of great enthusiasm, a charming conversationalist, with the power of winning and retaining friends, he has had at different times various enthusiasms. He collected the largest chess library in America, and organized the first chess congress at which Paul MORPHY, the greatest name in modern chess, won such distinction. He also established the Chess Monthly. His experience as a librarian and his familiarity with the languages of Northern Europe suggested him as a suitable man for librarian of the university and as professor of the Norse Languages, but he assumed for a time the professorship of German as well. He entered upon his duties in January, 1869. At the opening of the university he was traveling in Europe and acting as correspondent of one or more newspapers.

The work in German was organized at the opening of the university by Mr. T. Frederick CRANE, at that time a young lawyer in Ithaca, who was engaged temporarily, in the absence of Professor FISKE, during the fall term. Mr. CRANE on returning from Europe where he had prosecuted studies in the Romance languages in Berlin, Florence, Madrid and Paris, was elected assistant professor of Modern Languages on June 30, 1870. On September 10, of the same year, Waterman T. HEWETT was elected first assistant-professor of North European Languages, and Bela P. McKOON second assistant-professor of North European Languages, and Alfred STEBBINS assistant-professor of the South European Languages. Both departments were then fully constituted with one full professor and three assistant-professors, Professor CRANE appearing as assistant-professor of Spanish and Italian. In 1873 (upon the resignation of James Morgan HART), Hjalmar H. BOYESON was appointed assistant-professor of the North European Languages, and three years later professor of German Literature. The department was thus constituted until the year 1877, when, during the absence of Assistant-Professor HEWETT in Europe, Assistant-Professor Horatio WHITE of the classical. department took much of his work and on January 25, 1879, owing to the continued ill health of Professor FISKE, he was elected assistant professor of German for one year. During the first decade in the history of the university, the field of instruction in modern languages was somewhat enlarged. Professor BOYESON delivered a course of lectures upon the history of German literature which had not been previously given, and Professor CRANE offered new courses of instruction in Spanish and Italian. After this period, the field of instruction both in German literature and the related languages was enlarged. Instruction was given by Professor HEWETT in Dutch and later in Gothic, Old German and Middle High German. Additional electives were offered by Professor WHITE in the modern literature. Upon the resignation by Professor FISKE of the chair of North European Languages in 1883, two professorships of German were established to which Assistant-Professors HEWETT and WHITE were promoted. The department has collected a valuable material to illustrate the study of German literature, in lantern slides containing views of old German life and art, manuscripts, pictures of authors, texts and of characters and scenes in literature and history.

History of Cornell - Chapter XII

Carl Hommel donated this material and transcribed into digital format.
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